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National Infrastructure Commission Design Principles

New infrastructure projects should consider four key principles covering not just value for money but also fostering a sense of local identity and cutting carbon emissions.


We are moving into a seminal decade for our infrastructure. The design of every major project should celebrate our nation’s ambition for flourishing communities and an enriched environment. By embedding excellent design into planning and delivery from day one and encouraging everyone in the sector to embrace it as part of their role, we can ensure we leave a proud inheritance that inspires people and helps the UK to achieve our climate targets.

The first ever design principles for national infrastructure set out four key considerations:

  • Climate Infrastructure must help set the trajectory for the UK to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner and be capable of adapting to climate change.
  • People Projects should be human scale, instinctive to use and seek opportunities to improve the quality of life for people who live and work nearby.
  • Places Schemes should provide a sense of identity for communities, supporting the natural and built environment and enriching ecosystems.
  • Value Value should be added beyond the main purpose of the infrastructure, solving problems well and achieving multiple benefits.

The principles are intended for all economic infrastructure – digital communications, energy, transport, flood management, water and waste. They can be used by anyone planning, constructing or maintaining infrastructure through a decision-making toolkit.

They were developed by the NIC’s expert design group, of which I am Chair, and is made up of senior figures in the worlds of architecture, engineering, landscape and transport.

The design group is calling for the principles to be adopted in the government’s infrastructure strategy, alongside the National Infrastructure Assessment’s recommendations for all nationally significant projects to have design champions and review panels.

The National Infrastructure Commission was set up in October 2015 by then chancellor George Osborne. The commission is sponsored by the treasury and intended to provide the government with impartial, expert advice on major long-term infrastructure challenges.

National Infrastructure Commission Design Principles

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National Infrastructure Commission Design Principles

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